VMI head coach Jim Gibson (right) and assistant coach Ryan Hunsberger (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Continuing our "schedule breakdown" series, VMI released their 2022-23 schedule on Tuesday, so we're diving into it today. VMI competes out of the Southern Conference and is led by head coach Jim Gibson. The Keydets are looking to push through their first national qualifiers since 2020, when Neal Richards won his second SoCon crown and was named an NWCA second-team All-American.
Coach Gibson had this to say about VMI's schedule, "I think we have the right schedule to give our cadet-athletes every opportunity to make a name for themselves this season. We have a heavy focus on individual tournaments for the first half of the season, most notably the new Soldier Salute in Iowa. We are all excited for that event."
In order to book a trip to Tulsa for the national tournament, VMI wrestlers will have to navigate through the schedule below:
November 4th - Southern Virginia
November 6th - Southeast Open @ Salem, Virginia
November 13th - Journeyman Classic @ Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
November 19th - Navy Classic @ Annapolis, Maryland
December 4th - Duke, Franklin & Marshall
December 10th - Fairmont State, Shenandoah
December 28th/29th - Soldier Salute @ Iowa City, Iowa
January 6th - Chattanooga
January 14th - Clarion, Long Island @ Brooklyn, New York
January 15th - Sacred Heart @ Fairfield, Connecticut
January 20th - Appalachian State
January 22nd - Presbyterian @ Clinton, South Carolina
January 27th - Bellarmine @ Louisville, Kentucky
January 29th - Campbell
February 3rd - Gardner-Webb @ Boiling Springs, North Carolina
February 4th - Davidson @ Davidson, North Carolina
February 18th - The Citadel
March 4th - SoCon Championships @ Boone, North Carolina
Conference Slate: VMI gets the three top teams in the SoCon in their own gym as Chattanooga, Appalachian State, and Campbell each come into Cormack Hall for duals. In 2021-22, each of those three teams shut out the Keydets, so they'll have their hands full in front of the home crowd. The weekend dual schedule only features one weekend with back-to-back away meets, as they'll have Gardner-Webb and Davidson on a Friday/Saturday in early February. The other two conference away duals have a home meet on the same weekend.
Out-of-Conference Duals: The Keydets kick their season off with a dual against neighboring DII school, Southern Virginia. VMI and Southern Virginia are only separated by about seven miles, so it's a good idea to get a local fanbase excited in this local rivalry. About a month later, another DIII school from in-state, Shenandoah, will come by with West Virginia DII Fairmont State.
The week prior Duke and Franklin & Marshall will visit. It's uncertain exactly what either team will look like, but each should provide a competitive dual meet for VMI.
As they move into the second semester, VMI will take a road trip to the northeast and dual Clarion, Long Island, and Sacred Heart. Clarion should have a scrappy team and Sacred Heart has huge numbers and improves yearly.
Tournaments: Some of VMI's best out-of-conference competition could come from the Southeast Open. Host Virginia Tech typically has a large contingent in action. Excluding Pittsburgh, most of the ACC schools tend to have some sort of presence at the tournament. The Journeyman Classic is an individual, round-robin event hosted by Lehigh. There will be plenty of competition there, as well, which is important to boost RPI ratings.
The first bracketed, fully attached tournament for VMI is the Navy Classic. The host Midshipmen tend to shine at their home tournament. From a previously released schedule, we can see that Nebraska will attend. This isn't a typical occurrence for the Huskers, but they'll raise the level of competition in Annapolis.
The last regular season tournament on VMI's docket is the Soldier Salute from Iowa City. This is an event that the University of Iowa has put together, so any Hawkeyes involved makes it a significant date on the calendar. Other military institutions should be in attendance, as well.
The postseason: Once VMI navigates through the regular season and February, they'll have to head south for the conference meet at Appalachian State. That should be a rowdy atmosphere, as the Mountaineers fans show out well for home events (along with other SoCon fans). With a good schedule, hopefully, VMI and the rest of the league can have individuals jump into the rankings and post solid RPI numbers, so the SoCon can improve upon the 15 automatic qualifiers from 2022.